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The Secret Agent

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  19,844 ratings  ·  1,441 reviews
Mr Verloc, the secret agent, keeps a shop in London's Soho where he lives with his wife Winnie, her infirm mother, and her idiot brother, Stevie. When Verloc is reluctantly involved in an anarchist plot to blow up the Greenwich Observatory things go disastrously wrong, and what appears to be "a simple tale" proves to involve politicians, policemen, foreign diplomats, and L ...more
Paperback, Oxford World's Classics, 304 pages
Published April 29th 2004 by Oxford University Press (first published 1907)
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Average rating 3.60  · 
Rating details
 ·  19,844 ratings  ·  1,441 reviews

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May 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
I have only run across a few writers who can adeptly and accurately plumb the depths of the human soul.

Joseph Conrad is one of those authors and he is on a short list of talented creators who seem to have two fingers on the pulse of primordial man as he still lives and breathes beneath the surface composure of his civilized evolution.

For Conrad, the ability to strip off the etiquette, culture, and social mores of western thought is as eventful as watching sun bathers lose their clothing on the
Mar 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: brittish-lit
The Secret Agent is by far the most complex classic I read for this year. It is a classic which is conceptually modern. Built on the themes of espionage, double agents, government policies, politics, terrorism, and revolutionaries, it is a dark and tragic tale, and even brutal at times. In the heart of the story, is a secret agent, his double life, and his unsuspecting family. The whole story is knitted around them.

The story is presented in an episodic manner and each episode did keep the reade
Jun 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bitchin
In the aftermath of a tragedy people often look towards artists, towards novelists, musicians and poets also, for comfort, the kind of comfort one finds when someone is able to capture an event, or feelings, that you yourself find incomprehensible or unfathomable or inexpressible. For example, after 9/11 there was a rush to proclaim certain kinds of art as speaking for the time[s], and it was then that Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent received a lot of attention, it being a novel concerned with ...more
Fiona MacDonald
Feb 19, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-books
I can appreciate this novel is pretty wonderful. And as I read more and more I was fascinated, but I did find it hard going at the start. I think the plot is horrific, and it made me want to research the Greenwich Bomb in more detail. I think it was a pretty daring book for Conrad to release at such a time with such detailed observations on spying and terrorism. It's still an incredibly relevant work even now in the current climate. ...more
A very dark novel in an even darker and filthier London. Joseph Conrad describes a couple who survive on a front business of questionable articles and work to gather information on the anarchists of the late 19th century. The least we can is that the book is not a spy novel as we understand it today, little action but rather a book on the difficult life of a couple of modest people penniless, all treated in a deliberately ironic, black manner and uncompromising criticism of the laziness and pett ...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
My ratings are very moody and just generally not to be trusted. Having gotten that fact out in the open for the umpteenth time, I will say that I thought this was a very good book. Love, no. Like very much, yes. I especially hearted the last-ish part with the wife and the train and ole dude's stop, drop, and roll in mid-air move because ACTION! SUSPENSE! HEARTBREAK! PLOTSY TWIRLS! In fact, most of my favorite scenes involved Winnie V, while some other sections, particularly some of the more beat ...more
Ahmad Sharabiani
766. The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale, Joseph Conrad
The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale is a novel by Joseph Conrad, published in 1907. The story is set in London in 1886 and deals with Mr Adolf Verloc and his work as a spy for an unnamed country (presumably Russia). The Secret Agent is one of Conrad's later political novels in which he moved away from his former tales of seafaring.
عنوانها: مامور سری؛ مامور مخفی؛ نویسنده: جوزف کنراد، انتشارات (بزرگمهر)، ادبیات انگلستان؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سوم ماه نا
Manuel Antão
Nov 18, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2002
If you're into stuff like this, you can read the full review.

Meister Geschichtenerzähler: "The Secret Agent" by Joseph Conrad

(Original Review, 2002-06-25)

One of my oldest friends, both female and a graduate in English loathes Lessing, and I could just as easily wonder how Nabokov can offer anything superior to Under Western Eyes, The Secret Agent, Nostromo or Victory, which must have one of the most memorable lines in English literature when the sinister Mr. Jones tells Heyst: "I am the world it
May 18, 2010 rated it it was amazing
My best friend Joel has a friend Bob who teaches at Rutgers. Nearly a decade ago, before becoming a scholarly expert on Borat, he stated that in terms of literature he wasn't going to bother with anything written later than 1920; what was the point, he'd quip? I admired his pluck. While I'm not sure he still ascribes to such. Well, for a couple of weeks in 2004 I adhered to the goal. There have been many goals with a similar history and such a sad conclusion: sigh. This was my first effort towar ...more
A first time read of the author and perhaps this might not have been the novel to start with. Found the first half of the novel confusing and convoluted although the story did gain some momentum in the second half and become engrossing. A novel of spies, espionage and terrorism in the late 1800's.

One of those novels that you have an inkling early on that won't end well for the characters involved.
Tyler Jones
Aug 03, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I think this is one of the finest novels of the 20th Century for the following reasons:

1) The language is magnificent. For a reader such as myself, who likes to get lost in tangential thoughts mid-sentence, Conrad offers a warm bath we can soak in. I often just let the sentences flow over me in waves of color and music (I usually read Faulkner this way too), but if I want to stop and extract all the meaning from one of his dense little beauties I just pull the golden ribbon and what appears to b
Mar 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Grand opera.
Tosca stabs Scarpia. Victorian London, amid a nest of spies
and terrorists. Classic stuff fr a non-stylist who is, nonetheless, a great writer (Conrad's first language was Polish, his 2d French, he wrote in English). A strong influence on Graham Greene, Conrad rips open a marital horror bet a scuzzy anarchist and his simple wife after her teen brud is killed x his bomb.

Their marriage was legalized prostitution and, in her outrage, the shattered sister becomes a murderer. "She did not
Jon Nakapalau
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, classics
The inner workings of a terrorist cell are examined in this tale of ideology and betrayal. Should be required reading for military/law enforcement personnel.
Sep 09, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics
I enjoyed Winnie Verloc’s story of despair, secrets, desolation, madness and the predictable ending. The dinginess, poverty and hopelessness is captured with the monotonous of life. The lazy indolent secretive Mr Verloc with the story of the Greenwich bombing. Espionage, double dealing, betrayal and the politics of turning the other cheek are well captured.

When we think of a secret agent we think of James Bond instead we get Mr Verloc. An overweight, middle aged, lazy character who owns and run
Jan 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
The Secret Agent (1907) by Joseph Conrad

What a novel. Magnificent.

Incredibly convoluted, dense, sporadically boring, but also extraordinary prescient, dark, beautifully written, occasionally amusing, sometimes laugh out loud funny, but, above all, always strangely compelling.

This London novel takes place during the 1880s and involves a small group of mostly ineffectual anarchists. Conrad writes compelling portraits of these disaffected participants. One of them, Adolf Verloc, is a shopkeeper w
Ivana Books Are Magic
Nov 11, 2017 rated it it was amazing

I wanted to read this novel for a while. When I saw it referenced in a book I was reading, I decided that it was going to be the next novel I was going to read. Really any excuse to read more of Conrad’s works will do it for me, but this time I was particularly drawn by the theme- the exploration of political terrorism. Unless I’m mistaken, this is not a common theme with Conrad. Well, it is not a common theme in literature period.

How many really good novels were w
Sharon Barrow Wilfong
Although I find Conrad way too verbose, this work was an interesting study in psychological realism. The mystery takes on an original form as we retrace the same time period through different eyes before arriving at the conclusion. A remarkable commentary on human nature.
This classic is worth reading. This story of a marriage also tells about the anarchist movement in London. When finally a terrorist attack is made on the Greenwich Observatory, the tale gets in a faster pace to recount all the consequences of this account.

The book is excellently written and has a special attention to the description of the characters and their psychology. At the same time the book is very slow especially at the beginning. I’d give it just below 4 stars
Dec 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in Conrad's concept of anarchism & disillusionment
Recommended to Quo by: A library book club selection
Shelves: british-lit, reviewed
Joseph Conrad's novel The Secret Agent is filled with characters who might be termed "burned out cases", refugees from the crowded, pestilent London of Conrad's own day, composed by someone who was himself a perpetual outsider, a former Polish seaman born in what is today a part of the Ukraine, for whom English was a 3rd language. And, while Conrad's characters might be drawn from an English underworld somewhat reminiscent of Dickens, they are cast in a seemingly much less compassionate manner. ...more
Faith Simmons
Sep 15, 2021 rated it liked it
Now, here is a novel that I can almost guarantee you I never would’ve read if not for school. The very title “The Secret Agent”, suggests an espionage thriller, the likes of which have never been my cup of tea. However, having now completed this odd little book, I can say that I was very surprised. This story is not so much a spy thriller as it is manual of anarchism. Centering around a group of anarchists in early 20th century London, The Secret Agent is unsettling to read, and quite full of Ma ...more
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
My first Joseph Conrad. Like Clarice Lispector, he was born in Ukraine but was raised elsewhere (Poland, in Conrad's case).

The impression this book left me is that Conrad wasn't only a gifted storyteller with deep psychological insights, but he was also the type who can erupt with melodious and poetic language even in such trifles as a cabman looking at some pieces of silver given to him by a passenger as payment for a ride:

"The cabman looked at the pieces of silver, which, appearing very minut
Χαρά Ζ.
Jan 19, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
*The secret sharer*

First time reading Conrad and frankly, i loved every bit of this tiny book. I will certainly read more of Conrad's work in the future 😁
First published in 1907, this spy fiction might be a literary adventure to those unfamiliar with Joseph Conrad's writing style enriched by apt, scholarly words and idioms admirable for his writing as his third language. From its 13 chapters, I found reading its first three fourths confusing due to its plot; however, I kept reading and gradually saw the light around Chapters 9-10 onwards. Then I enjoyed reading Chapter 11 in which I christened by noting as a tragic chapter since all episodes horr ...more
Apr 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
I thought that The Secret Agent was a genuinely fascinating profile of modern (by which I mean 1905) London society, and I found Conrad's picture of society being driven by personal interest and the lust for political power to be incredibly modern (by which I mean 2008) in its deep pessimism and sceptical view of human nature. Conrad presents us with a wide spectrum of characters, from loyal wives and impoverished cabdrivers to police officers and activist anarchists, each of whom is motivated ...more
Nov 30, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
Second book in a row that appears on American high school curriculum and this time I have to wonder what educators are trying to achieve by teaching it. The text is very dense and I can't imagine many teens getting anything out of this when having it forced upon them. Without a doubt Conrad can tell stories and knows the words to tell them with but Jesus he has inspired the least impressive review I have ever felt the need to write. Page after page of political ranting, no thank you. I'm sorry D ...more
Czarny Pies
Jan 25, 2021 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: those who want an inside look at terrorism and police surveillance.
Shelves: english-lit
I was surprised to discover the characters, mood and plot of a John Le Carré novel in Joseph Conrad's "Secret Agent". I need not have been. Le Carré greatly admired this work which he acknowledged as the source of his formula.
Fedor Dostoevsky ("The Devils"), Ivan Turgenev ("The Virgin Soil") and Sofia Kovalevskaya ("A Nihilist Girl") had earlier written great books about revolutionary cells of various socialist and anarchist creeds. Conrad seems to begin with yet another. Then one discovers tha
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
Conrad can be remarkably prescient--there are so many lines in here that made me think of 9/11, Al Qaeda, and our contemporary conflict in Afghanistan. "Madness alone is truly terrifying," he writes, "inasmuch as you cannot placate it either by threats, persuasion, or bribes." Later he writes, "There were no rules for dealing with anarchists." ...more
Steven Fisher
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: classics
He required a more perfect form of ease; or it might have been that he was the victim of a philosophical unbelief in the effectiveness of every human effort. Such a form of indolence requires, implies, a certain amount of intelligence.
Jenny (Reading Envy)
I started this book during a speed dating project and decided to try to finish all those books I dated and decided to keep and finish before the end of 2015.

Conrad himself had to defend this book to critics - it isn't his usual style, they didn't understand the context, etc. There is a brief intro in my edition by Conrad that attempts to justify it, but to me it was a justification it didn't need.

Published in 1907, the central story of this short (but incredibly dense) novel is a bombing scheme
Apr 20, 2008 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I actually thought the first chapter was perfection. So how could the creator of that chapter have produced the second chapter, allowing everything he'd built up to be ravaged by adverbs? Did Conrad use up his Spidey juice? Or was he saving his talent for later efforts, believing one solid chapter would be enough to lull the reader into head-bobbing idolatry? I don't get it. ...more
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Joseph Conrad (born Józef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski ) was a Polish-born English novelist who today is most famous for Heart of Darkness, his fictionalized account of Colonial Africa.

Conrad left his native Poland in his middle teens to avoid conscription into the Russian Army. He joined the French Merchant Marine and briefly employed himself as a wartime gunrunner. He then began to work aboard

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